Today in History – March 4, 1954 – First F-104 Starfighter takes flight.

“After a series of interviews with Korean War fighter pilots in 1951, Kelly Johnson then lead designer at Lockheed, opted to reverse the trend of ever-larger and more complex fighters and produce a simple, lightweight aircraft with maximum altitude and climb performance.

Legendary aircraft designer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson shakes hands with test pilot Tony LeVier after the first flight of the XF-104 at Edwards Air Force Base. (Lockheed via Mühlböck collection)

On 4 March 1954, Lockheed test pilot Anthony W. LeVier took the prototype XF-104 Starfighter, 53-7786 to the air for the first time, and on 26 February 1958, the production fighter was activated by the USAF. Only a few months later it was pressed into action during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis when it was deployed as a deterrent to Chinese MiG-15s and MiG-17s.

Problems with the General Electric J79 engine and a preference for fighters with longer ranges and heavier payloads meant its service with the USAF was short-lived, though it was reactivated for service during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Vietnam War when it flew over 5,000 combat sorties.”

Source: Wikipedia; ThisDayinAviation

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